Dec 26, 2013

RDBC and Friends- Best of 2013

Well, it's time for the obligatory end of the year best of the year list. I figured that since I have spent all year telling you about the music that I think you should all take notice of, that I would also give a few of my friends an avenue to tell you their top albums. A lot of what you will see here isn't going to be stuff that you would expect. These lists are for people who appreciate music, appreciate the song and the story behind it. These lists are not for people who like to simply listen to the radio.

The music was truly great this year. My list has changed countless times through the year and several times as I wrote it here. The one thing to remember, great music is out there. Go find it. Some of the most incredible music out there won't even get spins in our little scene.

There were great albums put out by some of the bigger names in our scene this year. Albums from Jason Isbell, Will Hoge, Jason Boland and Reckless Kelly were all incredible top notch efforts. But everyone knows about these albums. What we are going to do is focus on the stuff that is just as good but doesn't have the attention or notice that is so deserves. No love lost to those mentioned above, but new blood is what keeps this scene fresh and alive, and the following list is the stuff that gives the Texas/Red Dirt music scene a bright future.

Brandon RDBC

10. Joey Green - Lo 5
A solid effort from one of the purest talents in north Texas. This album should have been the one to elevate Joey to the next level. The search to find someone in the Texas scene that can write a better or more gut wrenching song about love would prove exhausting.

9. Jessey General Thompson - self titled
There must be something in the water that keeps making Oklahoma serve up these amazing rootsy singer/songwriter types. Whatever it is, Jessey has caught a serious case.

8. Green Light Pistol - The Lights Came On
Another one to classify under "you have just got to see it to believe it." GLP is a family band that takes a little of the Partridge Family and throws in elements of Mumford & Sons sprinkled with a little Flogging Molly. Wrap your head around that.

7. Lincoln Durham - Exodus of the Deemed Unrighteous 
If you haven't seen or heard Lincoln Durham, nothing I can say will even come close to describing the auditory splendor this gentleman produces. You have to experience it.

6. Dylan Stewart & The Johnny Strangers- self titled
One of a group of incredibly gifted young artists coming up in Oklahoma today. I have heard him described as a Bob Dylan of the plains.

5. William Clark Green - Rose Queen
Take the above verbiage regarding Dylan Stewart and apply here in respect to Texas. This guy has the talent to become one of the biggest names in the new generation of Texas country artists.

4. Chris King - 1983 OR Native
This guy released two of the best albums of 2013. early this year was 1983 which was his first full blown studio effort and blew away 99.7 percent of the music released this year.  Native was released later this year and included acoustic versions of songs from 1983 and a couple new tunes. Pure, good old fashioned, true country music pours from this guy's veins.

3. Javi Garcia - The Great Controversy
The baddest bad-ass of Texas rockers in the scene today. Diabolical lyrical genius. Bold sound and some of the ballsiest lyrics around.

2. John Moreland- In The Throes
Following in the footsteps of Oklahoma's John Fullbright and setting the example for a string of seriously talented Okies that will be making an impact sooner rather than later.

1. Drew Kennedy- Wide Listener
Drew is hands down one of the most gifted songwriters in Texas today. His lyrics not only tell some of the most incredible stories, but they take bring you into the life of the subject. Whether it's his story or just an old tale retold, Drew manages to make the familiar new and fresh.

Ben Ryan’s Top 10 Albums of 2013

My name is Ben Ryan, formally the Music Director at 103.1 KKCN in San Angelo and currently Tour Managing for Phil Hamilton.  Throughout my years working in this industry I've heard music that should’ve been top ten but never received recognition.  On the other hand I've also heard some music that made it top ten and left me thinking ‘How in the hell…’  That being said I've picked out my top ten favorite albums of 2013.  Agree or disagree, it’s my opinion.
Honorable Mentions: Reckless Kelly – Long Night Moon, The Statesboro Revue – Ramble On Privilege Creek, The Rusty Brothers – Revival and Clay Thrash – Clay Thrash.

10. Matt Stell – A River Through It
Matt Stell is one of those guys who have been around for a while and always putting out great tunes.  The album A River Through It is one that I feel Matt wrote from the heart.  It’s got some great up tempo songs along with some slower love songs.  He released two of the tracks to radio, Memphis On The River and Grass Looks Greener.  I really connect with this album and it makes me feel like I’m back in home in Southern Arkansas.  Being able to connect, that’s what counts right?

9.  Jason Boland & The Stragglers – Dark & Dirty Mile
Jason Boland has been one of my favorites since Nam and was actually one of the first Red Dirt artists I heard back in the day.  What I like about Jason is he stays true to his roots.  He hasn't really commercialized or polished it up, so to speak, like the other ‘heavy hitters’ or whatever you want to call them.  One thing I noticed on this album is he stepped a bit out of his norm on the song Green Screen getting a little more rockin’ and edgy.  This is real and true country music and a great follow up to Rancho Alto.  All in all it’s another great album from the Jason Boland Camp.

8.  Shane Smith & The Saints – Coast
Where did these guys come from?!  I do have to make a confession, the first time I heard them I wasn’t too sure about it.  I gave’em a few more listens and it clicked.  The first radio single from the album, Coast, is one that makes you want to get up and move around.  I tried to pick out a favorite song on this album but it was impossible.  This 13 track album has something for everybody on it and features a few guests like Aaron Watson and Ryan Engleman.  Shane has a very distinct voice and joined with the eclectic musical parts, it makes for some great tunes.  This album states Shane Smith & The Saints are here to stay.

7.  Phil Hamilton – Live At The Whiskey Girl Saloon
I know what you’re thinking ‘He works for Phil so of course he put him on the list.’  There’s a reason why I work for him now isn’t there?  I was torn on where to position this one on my top ten.  On one hand it is a live album with all his hit plus two new singles.  On the other this is Phil Hamilton, this is what you get at a show and the two new singles which I’ll get to in a minute.  Too often I’ve heard someone live and could tell there had been some tweaking in studio on the voice or session players that the band couldn’t match.  This is not the case with Phil and the guys.  I’ve known Phil for many moons and seen the roster change up but now he’s got the band that is here to stay.  When listening to Hold On Tight and Tragedy it is very apparent that each member of the band is more involved than on any of the other songs.  They are well written and music parts are second to none.  It’s all in the collaboration.

6.  Zane Williams – Overnight Success
I first heard Zane back when I worked at The Ranch in Fort Worth.  He tossed me a copy of The Right Place, his 2009 album, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  Overnight Success, the song, reflects Zane’s humor and is a tongue in cheek type of song you can’t help but sing along with.  The first time I heard it I knew it was going to be an overnight success (see what I did there).  Anyway, the rest of the album is full of love and honky tonkin’ songs written in Zane’s unique style.  When I first received this album is was in my CD player for about a month and a half, it’s that good.  This one has it all; songs that’ll make you want to dance, fall in love, cry and drink some cold beer.  I highly recommend it.

5.  Sam Riggs and The Night People – Outrun The Sun
Sam Riggs and The Night People, a fairly new crew to the Texas/Red Dirt music scene, have made an impression and have proven to be a chart topper.  Outrun The Sun is the second album from Sam and has a little more of the rockin’ guitar but still staying with his country sound.  The single, Angola’s Lament, has been making waves not only on Texas/Red Dirt radio but also on the music charts.  This album connects with people from all walks of life.  I really enjoyed listening to this one and I’m looking forward to more from Sam and the guys.

4.  Will Hoge – Never Give In
Will Hoge is one of those guys who have been hiding in the shadows to the Texas/Red Dirt fans for quite some time and I’m happy he’s finally jumping in.  Never Give In is another great album from Hoge.  He stayed true to his style with rockin’ guitar, great writing and he has one of those unique voices that you can’t get enough of.  Even with the majority of the album being upbeat musically, the lyrics are come from the heart and are believable.  I’ve heard some criticism because Chevy picked up Strong as their theme song but some people are just going to be jealous.  This is another great album from a great singer/songwriter.

3.  Drew Kennedy – Wide Listener
Do I really need to explain this one?  Drew Kennedy is one of the most genius songwriters out there today in my opinion.  Wide Listener is another one of those albums that was in my CD player for months.  It’s hard for me to put into words why I love this album so much but I’ll try.  Drew’s songs tell stories of places, people and his own life experiences.  I believe what he is singing and that’s what makes a good song great.  Along with the writing, Drew also has a very true and unique voice.  This album is good for the soul.

2.  Dolly Shine – Room To Breathe
Dolly Shine is a rather young group with a huge amount of talent.  The amount of maturity done from their first EP to this album is unreal.  Room To Breathe is a 14 track album, one of which is a jam track, full of rich and pure country music.  The title track was written and recorded with William Clark Green and Clayton Landua, it is sure strike some sort of emotion with all who hears it.  Also, they revisited one of my all-time favorite Dolly Shine tracks, Pretty Flowers, which makes me like this album that much more.  Take a listen, it is truly amazing and speaks for itself.

1.  William Clark Green – Rose Queen
If you don’t like this album then you very well could be a commie.  William Clark Green’s latest album Rose Queen is my favorite album of 2013 and for great reason.  Will has been making quite a name for himself, earning the respect from all in this Texas/Red Dirt music scene.  This album has it all from young love and rough living, struggles of the life and differences in relationships, heart break and welcoming new ones to the family and more.  There are co-writes with some respectable singer/songwriters like Brandon Adams and Brian Keane which makes for an eclectic, fun and energetic album that’ll leave you begging for more.  Rose Queen is one of those albums that you can’t pick a favorite song from because they are all that legit.  If you don’t have this one, you should.

There you have it, my top albums of 2013.  While it may not be crowded with what people call the ‘Heavy Hitters’ ‘A Listers’ or ‘Top Tier’ artists it is in fact full of truly talented singer/songwriters.  The fact that some let labels such as those listed above decide who receives the most attention baffles me.  It should be about the music.  It shouldn’t be about what your name is, which promoter you have or what label you’re on.  Let the music speak, not the politics.  That being said, thank you for reading and y’all stay classy.

Ben Ryan **********************

Lauren Gonzalez -  Hurricane Highway blogger 

With this year quickly coming to a close, it is time that we reflect on the old and look forward to the new.  While 2013 wasn't a year I care to go back through again personally, the music of 2013 gave me plenty to be happy and excited about.  So with out further ado lets reflect.  Below is (insert drumroll)  Hurricane Highway's Official Top Ten Albums of 2013.

10. Thieving Birds - Gold Coast
Good ole fashioned southern rock at its finest. This was a wonderful follow up to their first release.  Check out Graveyard Love for a soulful bluesy track. This is also a must see band to hit the stage in 2014. Much in the same way Uncle Lucius made waves in the last two years.

9. Dylan Stewart and The Johnny Strangers- self titled
A grit and groovy album.  This guy is making a name for himself in Oklahoma. Look for him to become a contender in the must see list of 2014.

8. Will Arrington - Miles Left To Go
Making a name for himself amongst the Cheatham Street Circle Miles comes out strong straight out of the gate with the lead track Coming Back Around.  It pulls no punches quickly moving into the next song Final Stand.  Other standouts on this cd are Just Another, Rain, Stay With Me Tonight, and My Old Friends.

7. John Moreland - In The Throes
This is a lyrical Gem. Simply done and understated. John is a brilliant writer. Jason Isbell recently took him out on tour.   Throes is excellently crafted.  This disk was produced in a way to take nothing away from the words.

6. Drew Kennedy - Wide Listener
Wide Listener represented a more mature and confident sound for Drew.  As a songwriter he is at his best with this disk.  The imagery combined with his voice made each song feel like a movie vignette.

5. Holly Williams - The Highway
Showcasing her awesome vocals, Holly is making her mark in 2013 with great writing as well as production.  This girl proved that she was way more than a pretty face to come along in 2013.  She is touring with Jason Isbell in 2014. What made the Highway so great was the noticeable change in production from her first disk.  The more paired down arrangements really allowed her writing and vocals to shine.

4. Shane Smith & The Saints - The Coast
This release is one of the ones I am most excited to talk about. This is another one that was good from start to finish.  Shane and his band have been touring constantly since the release.  Really looking forward to seeing them take off in 2014.   The guys have been having some regional success on Texas Radio.  They have also had some opening spots in Gruene Hall and Floore's.

3. Javi  Garcia - The Great Controversy
This is the most unapologetic rock record to come out this year.  I also believe one of the most underappreciated. One of the great characteristics of Javi and his band is the ability to do things their own way and not fit in to the traditional mode of "Texas Music". If you have the chance to see him live I strongly recommend it.

2. Jason Isbell - Southeastern
There was not a single flaw in this record.  I am still as moved by his lyrics today as I was the first day I heard it.  Jason is poised to be the greatest songwriter of our generation.  I don't know that there is a song as  truthful as Elephant out there.  It spoke to anyone who has lost a love one and had to witness that process of death.  The line "One thing that is clear to me, no one dies with dignity, we just try to ignore the elephant somehow,"  was one the most heartfelt and honest lyrics I have ever heard.

1. Courtney Patton - Triggering A Flood
Women in songwriting don't often get the credit they deserve.  Most are compared to Miranda or Taylor, as if that is ok.  This disk is on neither side of those.  What Courtney did in this cd was bring vulnerability and strength from heartbreak in her lyric in way that seems natural and compelling.

Lauren ********************

Brandon Hardin - DJ 96.5 KECO Elk City, Oklahoma

The end of every year brings forth a tsunami of top “whatever” lists.  Here are my personal Top 10 albums of 2013 in no particular order.  These are the albums that I've been hung up on, and have found difficult to lay down.

Band of Heathens – Sunday Morning Record
I love this album. Love this album.  While still not the absolute best of Band of Heathens, it is still one of my top ten.  At times it feels like early Elton John (think Honky Cat), while at other times it feels more like late Beatles and The Band.  There are still plenty of funky, laid back, jangly grooves underlying this musical evolution of a band that's been going through changes.  In all honesty, I have to disagree with the naysayers.  This album is great, and lives up to the title “Sunday Morning Record”, as it is best digested early in the morning or late at night when trying to escape or avoid the hectic nature of the average day to day.
Favorite Tracks: Shotgun; Miss My Life; Girl With Indigo Eyes; The Same Picture

Lincoln Durham – Exodus of the Deemed Unrighteous
It's gritty. It's dirty. It's raw. It is uniquely Lincoln Durham.  He comes at you like a prophet from the darkest pages of the Old Testament, with fire and passion.  Lincoln Durham is hands down one of the most talented artists around, and while it is easy to get caught up in the spectacle of Samsonite briefcases and cigar box guitars, it is impossible to deny the amazing craft of Lincoln Durham.
Favorite Tracks: Ballad of a Prodigal Son; Annie Departee; Exodus Waltz; Stupid Man

Quaker City Nighthawks – Honcho
For the record, Rock 'N' Roll (and Southern Rock for that matter) is not dead; you just have to know where to find it in this commercialized, corporate friendly world of music we have devolved to.  And one group of guys keeping the spirit, grit, and attitude of “real Rock” alive is Quaker City Nighthawks.  Honcho is not an album you merely press play on and sit through.  It is an all-out assault of sound.  Even when they slow things down a bit, the lyrics and music hit you like a ton of bricks. It is impossible to sit still while listening through Honcho.
Favorite Tracks: Fox in the Hen House; Crack at the Bottle; Train Rolled Home; Sweet Molly

 Sturgill Simpson – High Top Mountain
This year, more than any other year I can remember, we all were at one anothers throats over this idea of what real Country music is and is not.  And while some of us had to back pedal to make the latest Country/R&B hybrid machine seem viable in the Country music landscape, the rest of us were too busy listening to this album to even care.  Sturgill Simpson calls upon the ghost of Waylon Jennings, and holds true to the standard set in place decades ago as to what is or is not a “Country” record.  If you find yourself constantly pissing and moaning because Country Radio isn't Country anymore, buy this album and make yourself happy.  You deserve it, you defender of the Outlaw Faith you.
Favorite Tracks: Life Ain't Fair and the World is Mean; You Can Have the Crown; Poor Rambler

Jason Isbell – Southeastern
It's on everyone's top ten this year, because it is that good.  In fact, many have said it is the best Country album of 2013.  Isbell has an amazing way of accomplishing the basic job of the artist (which is taking everyday life and interpreting it for the everyday man).  He paints beautiful and sometimes tragic tapestries with words and vocals that gush forth with truth, soul, and pain.  Southeastern is a must have in everyone's collection.  It is a reminder that you don't have to have an image team or a TV show to make damn good music.
Favorite Tracks:  Cover Me Up; Elephant; Live Oak

Red Dirt Rangers – Lone Chimney
This year the Rangers have been awfully busy.  Traveling all over the U.S., and releasing this gem of an album.  I had a conversation one night in a smoky bar with a guy about the Red Dirt Rangers, and the only thing I can say now is what was said then.  They sound like the fields, hills, trees, and blue skies of Oklahoma opened up wide and bellowed out a song.  A fine mix of rock n' roll, blues, country, folk, and all things bad ass.
Favorite Tracks:  Where the Arkansas River Leaves Oklahoma; Take Life as It Comes; Lone Chimney

William Clark Green – Rose Queen
Here is another album that is making its way onto a plethora of lists, and again it's for a damn good reason.  Another heartfelt, soulful, honest album from an artist who isn't afraid to tell it how it is. But with this album, it's not all doom and gloom and heartache.  Green also takes time to have a little fun and celebrate the comical sides of love.  The arrangements are excellent. The songwriting superb.  Hats off to WCG for making one of the most “stand-out” albums of 2013.  Another one you owe it to yourself to add to your collection.
Favorite Tracks: Rose Queen; She Likes the Beatles; Dead or in Jail; Welcome to the Family

Statesboro Revue – Ramble on Privilege Creek
I love the funky vibe that radiates from this damn album. Statesboro Revue did a fantastic job mixing funk, soul, country, roots rock, and good old fashioned rock 'n roll all into one sweet honey pot. This is one you can plugin and from beginning to end have the time of your life.  Not one track is wasted, and each one unique and amazing of its own merit.  For soulful songwriting, unique vocals, and masterful arrangements add this one to your collection.
Favorite Tracks: Fade My Shade of Black; Huck Finn; Live a Little; Love Run Easy

Dylan Stewart and The Johnny Strangers – Self Titled
How do you even begin to summarize Dylan Stewart?  There had been a buzz generating for some time before this album landed on anyone's desk among artists and music connoisseurs alike.  I told a friend one time that to me, and I might be way off, Dylan sounds and writes like a future Bob Dylan/Tom Petty of the plains.  This guy came out of nowhere with an album full of songs/stories that sound as if they were written by a man well beyond Dylan's years.  If Dylan is just a tiny example of where music from Oklahoma is headed in the future, then we should all rejoice with a chorus louder than the heavenly choir. For the future of homegrown music is a bright one, and we get to be around for it.  And that's just the lyrics.  As a whole, the music on this album is beautifully arranged, and actually works to accentuate the lyrics, which is refreshing in this age of “radio friendly muzak” that merely exists to be a slight distraction in the background..  We are all sitting on the edge of our seats Mr. Stewart, ready to see where you take us next.
Favorite Tracks: The Deed; Just a Train; Turn Your Light; River of Red

Jason Boland & The Stragglers – Dark & Dirty Mile
Let's get this straight. No one gives a damn whether or not you like “old” or “new” Boland.  The beauty of music is that it allows us all to exist and evolve together in a communal moment of pain, joy, sorrow, and love.  Honestly, this is some of my all-time favorite work from Boland.  In a day and age where “mainstream” country radio “hits” are being chosen by suit and ties with dollar signs as their sole motivation, and where the lines between genres are becoming blurred and fans everywhere are saying “Dafuq?”, Boland steps out with a genuine country album.  You can hear and feel the blues inspired honky tonk.  Boland sings about life as a human being, and not some MTV reality hack that can't even do mudding right.  Once again, o ye faithful, pick this one up if you have been craving something that audibly tastes of real country, and not label manufactured fried chicken.
Favorite Tracks: Dark and Dirty Mile; Electric Bill; Ludlow; See You When I See You

Well there you have it. Four different opinions on what was the best of the best this year. I love seeing some names on each of these lists. The differences are also a sign that there is more out there to discover. 

We here at RDBC hope that each of you have a happy holiday season and we can't wait to see you guys out there somewhere in 2014.

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